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1 An endless rope which was used in weighing the anchor in the days before the introduction of auxiliary power aboard ships when the capstan was worked by hand. As the hemp anchor cables of those days were generally too thick and heavy to be brought themselves round the capstan direct, a messenger was used instead. It was led through two single blocks from the vicinity of the hawseholes, along the main deck so that it ran close alongside and parallel with the cable, round the capstan, where three or four turns were taken round the barrel, and back along the main deck on the other side of the ship. As the capstan was turned, so the messenger moved with it, and the cable was bound fast to the messenger with nippers so that it was hove in at the same rate as the messenger.

2 A small rope attached to the eye of a hawser and used to haul it out to the ring of a mooring buoy is also called a messenger.

3 In the US Navy, the most junior member of a watch.

Subjects: Maritime History — Warfare and Defence.

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